Fifty-two years ago today, at roughly this precise hour, I reported for my first shift with BOAC, as the company was then called. British Overseas Airways Corporation, or “Better On A Camel”, depending on your personal feelings.
It would have been satisfying to accomplish half a century with the company, as quite a few of my colleagues did. Not that I had much loyalty left by the end of my 38 years.
In any event, with the spinal fusion, I was in no condition to do the work required. I could have claimed workman’s compensation but that was a fight I didn’t have the stamina for, so I did the company a favour and retired.
Why is it that some dates stick in our minds? What is the point of anniversaries? So often they bring up memories that make us sad. Does going through continual periods of grief bring back a person who has died? Or a pet?
It’s not as if we are likely to forget them, if they were so important to us. Do we subject ourselves to more pain as a memorial? Is there any point in it?
We solemnly observe Remembrance Day, each November 11th and we are conditioned to regard it as respectful and right to remember those who were lost.
“We remember in order not to repeat the mistakes!”
But we have learned nothing.
In the case of WW2, all those people died to save the world from a hideous ideology and may God eternally bless them. But what do we do to prevent the formation of other, equally awful forms of leadership?
The young girl who went off to her first day at JFK, all those years ago hoped that a better world would emerge. I’d already had some serious personal disappointments, but I still believed, like Anne Franck, that people were basically good at heart.
Are they? I wanted to say that I stopped believing it years ago. Too many really awful things have happened in those 52 years that have made me question the belief.
And yet, in the years when I travelled with my friend Tim, people everywhere were always nice to us. People who could not have been more different, that we often had no common language with. They welcomed us to their often very humble homes. They thought we were wealthy. By comparison, we were. In actuality, we were very ordinary.
We did not travel as tourists. Tim preferred to be called a “traveller”. We didn’t go to expensive hotels or follow the tourist route. We walked in markets, along dusty roads and met ordinary people, like us.
What I came to realize was that ordinary people don’t matter. Only the very rich matter and they are the people with the power. They will always be the people with the power.
When I was still young, I used say that a revolution would come and that I wanted to lead it. Yes, I did want to, but I had not the ability or the know-how, or the charisma.
You see what I mean about anniversaries. They just drag us down dark holes.
That’s not where I want to be.